Pakistan v Australia, 1st MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Lord's, 2nd day July 14, 2010

Pakistan's young batsmen need a guiding hand

The inexperience of the batting line-up was always likely to be Pakistan's major problem and on a cloudy day at Lord's they came unstuck

It is cloudy. There is swing. Australia are the opponents. You are making your debut at Lord's. The emotions, the thoughts, the nerves, the expectations: all these factors would've crossed the minds of Azhar Ali and Umar Amin as they stirred themselves up before walking on to the billiards-table flat green turf on debut.

Like lambs to be slaughtered they were slotted in at No. 3 and 4 - two spots usually reserved for the best batsmen in the team. But let's forget the logic behind the decision because Pakistan cricket has never believed in that notion. In the weeks leading up to the Test series the Pakistan management stressed that they were ready to turn a new page and would be focused on grooming young talent even if it the plan seemed too risky. In keeping with that policy, both Azhar and Amin had received strong backing from Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi.

Today, it did not take long for Azhar to walk in as a fraught temperament accounted for Imran Farhat's. Azhar, not a natural top-order batsman, had climbed through the ranks with his impressive performances in domestic cricket. He started with a steady pulse. It was not a bad ploy considering the ball was only six overs old and Ben Hilfenhaus was constantly breathing down the batsmen's neck with testing swing and seam bowling from the Pavilion End.

Azhar did well to read both Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger without rushing into his shots. He preferred to wait patiently before negotiating everything that was thrown at him with soft hands. When Hilfenhaus gave him width he quickly pushed it past point for his first boundary. Two balls later, the Australian pitched it full and the ball moved out late, taking the outside edge which fell a few yards in front of the slip cordon. Azhar punched his thigh pad a few times in disgust. Immediately Salman Butt whispered some wisdom into his ears . It helped the newcomer to settle down quickly. Bollinger tested him with a short ball that climbed into the ribs but Azhar played with short hands to fetch an easy four to fine leg.

But he would learn immediately why Australian bowling attacks keep asking tougher questions than MI5 interrogators. Hilfenhaus sensed Azhar was reaching out for his shot. Lunch was an over away. Not a bad time for a teaser then. So the last ball of the penultimate over, Hilfenhaus moved one away which grazed Azhar's edge and a promising start was cut short.

In comparison Amin's exit was quick as he was beaten by a sharp delivery from Mitchell Johnson that pitched on a length, straightened a touch and still managed to graze the bat on its way into the hands of Tim Paine. Tough luck and Australia didn't need to work hard to get rid of the next three batsmen. The Akmal brothers - Umar and Kamran - displayed shoddy technique to exit but more alarming was Afridi's shockingly frail temperament, unfitting for a Test captain.

Even if Afridi was playing his first Test in four years he is not an ideal example for youngsters to follow. His suicidal approach eventually reeks of irresponsibility. It is this casual attitude of the seniors that has compounded Pakistan's batting worries over the years. Unfortunately for the youngsters like Azhar and Amin, and even Umar Akmal, the Pakistan batting doesn't have any senior figures to look up to or learn from. The men who could have led by example, the two Ys, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, are nursing bitterness towards the PCB, who dumped them unceremoniously after Pakistan lost every match in Australia earlier this year.

Outside the famous stands around Lord's players who achieved illustrious feats at the venue are displayed prominently. Among the names is Yousuf for recording the highest score (202) by a Pakistan batsman at the ground. He is absent from the present squad following his abrupt decision to retire from international cricket in March after the PCB banned him for an indefinite period for the debacle in Australia where he was captain. Younis Khan, their highest run-getter this decade behind Yousuf, is absent as well with the PCB and the player unwilling to relent from the stand-off as a result of the indefinite ban. Pakistan will continue to feel the pinch in the duo's absence.

Last time they toured England they lost the series, but at least Younis, Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq formed a backbone. If the Pakistan administration and selectors are indeed serious about developing youngsters they will need to develop their confidence first. For that a long rope is necessary. Azhar and Amin were preferred over the more experienced pair of Shoaib Malik and Yasir Hameed in this Test. The youngsters might work harder the next time to protect their wicket to ward off competition, but they need a helping hand from responsible seniors. Brilliant spells late in the day from their skilled and gifted fast bowlers kept Pakistan's hopes alive at Lord's. But it is the batsmen who will need to bounce back to take them past the finishing line. Not just in this Test, but for the rest of the summer.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2010, 7:01 GMT

    Afridi and management considered this as the trail for the future, hopefully if Pakistan won the test series then this will be real boost and come back for our cricket and if we loose there will be not much sorrow for us because PCB management is giving some time to the skipper to get the test cricket to balance form. Now Pakistan is in the great position to win this game and if they loose we will never mind.

  • Waseem on July 15, 2010, 15:49 GMT

    Firstly, it was a kamikaze act to land at the Lord's with this squad. I would strongly suggest that these guys should be allowed to consider the 439-target as an ODI target which will allow them to be more practical and easy as Test is not their game. Occupying crease does bring runs, but it needs stamina which isn't part of the luggage. So, for the sake of change, which Tests anyway need, let the 4th inning an ODI for as young and inexperienced squad as Pakistan, just my ten cents.

  • CSKFAN on July 15, 2010, 14:15 GMT

    Can anyone tell me,what afridi is doing in this Test match?? he cant bowl as test match bowler, he cant bat like test playing batsmen, then what he is doing? captaining?.. I wonder how PCB allows him as a captain?..for whom they not even consider as a substitute for 4 years!!..strange things happening in pak team..

  • sunny on July 15, 2010, 13:29 GMT

    being an indian i m not really a die hard fan of pakistan cricket naturally.however i do want pakistan to do well this time around.notice the irony in tht.......they do have world class bowlers at their disposal n they sud be backed up by some sensible batting from their batters.i cant understand why subcontinent teams(read india n pakistan) cannot get this balance right between bowlers n batsmen.We have a strong batting line up only to be backed by a substandard bowling lineup.n for pak its just the other way round.thts frustating

  • sunny on July 15, 2010, 13:22 GMT

    it was a rather poor decision to send two debutants at 3 and 4 but not tends to get used to such illogical decisions on the part of pak management

  • Dummy4 on July 15, 2010, 11:46 GMT

    I think everybody is expecting too much from Afridi and this young team! This is a young team with an attacking leader, this is his first test match in 4 years and that too as a captain, he has some faith in these youngster and i dont find it a bad ploy to expose youngster at No.3 and No.4 against one of the best bowling line up in the world and in testing conditions, this is how they will learn! Afridi has put faith in these 2 young batsmen and sooner or later it will come off, Azhar Ali was playing very well, he seems to have a decent test technique and he needs to be given a longer run, its just that he and Umer Amin got a good ball, simple! in a wicket where the likes of Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Umer Akmal failed to score runs, what do you expect from a player who is making his debut? Come on guys you need to be more realistic and lets face it, Pakistan might go on to lose all the test matches, but they will come out stronger the next time they visit any country!

  • Bilal on July 15, 2010, 11:34 GMT

    whats with asim kamal fans ... the guy last played like 5 years ago and didnt break any records ... we need to move forward and get new guys

  • Dummy4 on July 15, 2010, 11:34 GMT

    i know dis is an serious issue. but i cant stop my self laughin.

    "But let's forget the logic behind the decision because Pakistan cricket has never believed in that notion. " ROFl comic tragedy..

  • muhammad on July 15, 2010, 11:30 GMT

    just like bowlers learn from the seniors standing at mid off or mid on...coming up to them n telling how to bowl...similarly a rookie batsman shd have an experienced guy at the other end to keep talking to him n guiding...who do u expect that from..afridi playing his 1st test in last 4 yrs?

    n yes on a difficult pitch y wd u expect newcommers to make centuries..its the farhats, akmals n afridis who shd ve fired !! yasir hameed shd ve bin included..

    n guys...WHERE THE HELL IS ASIM KAMAL??...the guy has a real cool test temprament !!

  • Dummy4 on July 15, 2010, 11:22 GMT

    i think people should stop harping on about asim kamal he's made to be this shakepearan character that due to the tradegy of the selectors never fulfilled his talent to become our answer to rahul dravid .he was at best an admirable workhorse the type to average around 38 a honest pro nothing special and definately no real threat to a world class attack like australias.a player that should have been pushed and backed was hasan raza a player whos record in the first class system betters any none test playing player.but all thats in the past .to stop our world class attack losing heart in the future the way indias batting line up used to before there bowlers upped their game our senior players need to be back at the least younis khan to guide new players .also pcb needs to stop picking 40 averaging domestic players as if they cant average higher in the poor pakistani international bowler depleted league what chance do they have against world class bowlers.

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